NIET Director of Training Ann Shaw is an award-winning teacher who leads the development of training and support for districts and schools partnering with NIET. She also has experience working with higher education partners in teacher and principal preparation programs to support improvements in classroom instruction.
Across the country, there is a growing interest in teacher leadership roles. Teachers themselves are looking to have an impact beyond the four walls of their classrooms. At the same time, nearly every state has adopted new college and career standards that require teachers to change their instructional practices in significant ways.
How can teacher leaders step into instructional leadership roles without having to leave the classroom? And how can these roles be used to reliably upgrade instruction across classrooms?
While an increasing number of districts have created teacher leadership roles, few have clearly defined the roles and expectations for a teacher leader or have put in place training and support to make teacher leaders effective. Ann Shaw and her team have developed a series of trainings to provide this support to teacher leaders and help districts take full advantage of the skills within their own ranks.
NIET's new Teacher Leadership Series allows teacher leaders to leverage instructional expertise, expertly use data to inform decisions, establish collaborative partnerships and amplify their voices in the profession to improve student achievement.
The series is broken down into five parts, and can be delivered as a complete set or separately to meet the needs of schools, districts and states.
Each session provides teachers with the skills and knowledge to deepen their teacher leadership experience.
"We took what we learned from years of working with teacher leaders in TAP schools and are bringing it now outside that structure to any school that wants to engage teachers in leadership roles," Shaw says.
The first step for a teacher leader is to have strong instructional expertise. "Teacher leaders have to build their own instructional expertise before they can coach others in a way that will make an impact," notes Shaw. "This training is the springboard to make teacher leaders successful."
Effective teacher leaders need to be able to help teachers to understand why they are using a given curriculum and how to deliver that curriculum with depth and rigor. By deeply understanding what to teach, and combining that with expertise in how to teach, teacher leaders in the building are essential to the effective use of high-quality curriculum.
Too many data meetings revolve around analyzing data without any clear sense of what the next step should be. What does our data show us and what can we do about it? Answering that question and supporting peers in answering it for their own classrooms is a key skill for teacher leaders.
Teacher leaders are critical to helping their peers understand the connection between summative data and daily classroom instruction—the foundation of data-driven instruction. Another key role for teacher leaders is to bring this understanding to decisions that impact schoolwide improvement.
Collaboration and Partnership to Support Learning
Principals are under increasing pressure to expand the time and effort they spend on instructional leadership, particularly as research demonstrates that strategies to improve classroom instruction require huge investments of time and expertise. Leading collaborative professional learning and coaching, and providing meaningful individualized feedback simply requires more capacity. Who better to fill this need than teacher leaders?
Leading collaborative teams can be a high-impact strategy for improvement, but it is a challenging responsibility requiring a range of knowledge and skills. To successfully lead collaborative teams in ways that change instruction and improve learning across classrooms, teacher leaders need to engage in strategic thinking as well as both short- and long-range planning. They also need to understand adult learners, be able to differentiate support, and build trust and relationships.
Adds Shaw, "Principals know that they have a depth of expertise in their own schools. This training helps their teacher leaders to obtain more rapid improvement in the building and develops strong teams around the principal."
This teacher leadership series provided scaffolding not just for people in leadership positions, but also for educators who strive to be role models for the students within their classrooms, school and neighborhood communities.Cindy Borrego, Fifth-Grade Teacher, Ellen Ochoa STEM Academy, Ben Milam Elementary, Grand Prairie, Texas
Teachers raising their voices in policy debates is particularly important now with the opportunities presented for decision-making to move closer to the adults who work directly with students. Yet teachers are often unprepared to speak up, or are unsure of the processes and people who are making key decisions.
Working with teachers across multiple communities, NIET has often found they can benefit from understanding how policy decisions at many levels impact classroom experience and student learning. The training NIET offers supports participants to analyze how policies and policy decisions affect their classroom experience and student outcomes. They also learn how to effectively tell their story (classroom experience) to inform and influence families, community members, partners and policymakers.
Teachers have such enormous leadership potential, and creating teacher leadership roles can help address pressing challenges to improve teaching and learning in the nation's schools.